Murder Hornets and Context Marketing: What it Means for Your Content Efforts

Updated: May 29, 2020

Head-on shot of an Asian giant hornet.

No, Asian giant hornets aren’t out to kill us. But, their memes provide a good jumping-off point for a context marketing discussion.

In recent weeks, I’ve been fascinated by the latest so-called scourge to our society.

Murder hornets.

Okay. In reality, these Asian giant hornets aren’t out on a rampage to extinguish all life as we know it. That is, unless “all life as we know it” consists of European honeybees. If you’ve done any research, you already know that vespa mandarinia, to put a Latin flair on species and genus classifications, is the largest hornet in the world, measuring up to two inches.

Photo of a 12-inch ruler.
That's right. Two inches.

The good news is that, like most of their breed, if you leave them alone, they’ll ignore you. But they are scary looking creatures.

Large asian hornet, side view.
Definitely not something I want to meet in a dark alley, late at night.

The recent interest in the Asian giant hornets comes from the news that a grand total of two were found in northwest Washington State in late 2019. Earlier last year, a hive was discovered on Vancouver Island, in Canada. These days, they are popping in the news and on social media, in the form of questionably accurate articles and posts, horrifically graphic videos, and hilarious memes.

Speaking of social media, if you check out my Facebook page, you’ll see I’ve been a busy hornet -- er busy bee -- in posting my own “murder hornet” memes.

Why am I so invested this issue? In an introspective moment, when I wasn’t combing the internet for more of these ridiculous memes, the answer came to me.

Meme: "2020 Can't get worse." Photo of a large Asian hornet, and caption saying "Hold my Beer."


Or as I call the above, “context.”

So, About this "Context . . ."

According to Merriam-Webster, context is defined as “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.”

So, here are our “interrelated conditions.” We are living in very unusual times. The COVID-19 economic and health news is scary, with no end in sight, despite lifting of some restrictions.

Now, Mother Nature is handing out another “condition” that could be straight out of a science fiction movie (or biblical end of times, if that’s your worldview). This “condition” snacks on honeybees and has a venomous sting. Although scientists and entomologists point out that mosquitos and caterpillars are more dangerous, the fascination with murder hornets continues unabated, thanks to its appearance on the heels of a global pandemic.

If this were a year ago, and we were in the midst of a booming economy and not dealing with a contagion about which scientists still don't know much, I wouldn’t care about the Asian giant hornet. However, amid coronavirus uncertainty, I’ve been seeking out these memes and reposting them, partly because I’m a little nervous about what the post-coronavirus “new normal” will look like. This is my "context," something to which I react. It's my "interrelated condition."

Furthermore, based on this context, I want to laugh, and want to provide my Facebook friends with a laugh, as well. Hence, the memes.

Incidentally, I'm also building a relationship with my Facebook audience by posting these memes. Building relationships, based on such situations, is an important part of the aptly-named context marketing.

Combining ConTEXT with ConTENT

While this discussion about murder hornets is highly entertaining (at least, to yours truly), it's also a good way to segue into the main topic of this blog, which is about context marketing or as it’s also known, contextual marketing.

Successful context marketing involves providing the right content, to the right audience, at the right moment. Also important is that the right audience receives that content through the right platform, and in the right language.

A list for the context marketing definition, in WordSorters branded colors
The same thing, but visually.

Context marketing isn’t really new. Back in 2014, SDL introduced a white paper, “Why Context Is Essential to Digital Marketing,” which focused on the idea that gaining an in-depth understanding of customers, and then anticipating their needs, wants and expectations, should be the key to any successful content marketing effort.

The document also mentioned that, thanks to context marketing:

“Marketers are now empowered to deliver context,

content that is finely honed and shaped

by a myriad of factors that take relevant messaging to the next level.”

In other words, your audience wants content that fits within a specific context; their context. Perhaps your target market is seeking a solution to a problem, needs some timely information, or simply wants to be entertained. Your goal, therefore, is to understand what is happening with your audience, to ensure that the content you develop taps into that context.

The content should make sense, and connect to specifics of your customers' and prospects' situations. Kind of like how the gallows humor topic of murder hornets ties into the current COVID-19 scenario.

Mobius form on  a cloud background
By Reimund Bertrams for Pixabay

Relationship-Building, Context Marketing, Real-World Examples

So, the next question here is, why waste your time with context marketing?

The answer (here) is because other companies have done so, and quite successfully.

Some years ago, Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. managed to do quite well outselling Mercedes-Benz, despite the fact that the latter outspent the former in advertising. This is because high-end, electric-automotive manufacturer Tesla connected with consumers interested in living a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle, and found out what drove that interest. Tesla provided both content and product to fit the audience’s situation, and ended up with a success on its hands. This action checked all boxes of context marketing -- right time, right message, right audience and right language. Even the right platform was in play, through various social media outlets and one-on-one efforts.

Another good example involved a partnership between Taco Bell and GPS company Waze. Specifically, if a driver, who was logged into Waze, was within spitting distance of a Taco Bell, an ad for the restaurant (as well as directions to the location) popped up on the screen. The context here was that, if the Taco Bell-proximite driver received notification about a Beefy Mini Quesadilla or Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller, that reminder might encourage the driver to stop by the nearby restaurant for takeout.

Again: The right audience (the drivers); the right time (nearing a Taco Bell); the right message and language (Taco Bell is nearby, in case you are hungry) and the right platform (Waze, part of a driver's GPS).

Taco Bell’s relationship-building efforts were short-term -- enough time for the customer to drive to a local restaurant, sail through the drive-through, and leave. Tesla’s end game, however, involved a longer-term focus, complete with brand loyalty.

Still, in both examples, the companies took time to collect enough data to find out what, specifically, their audiences required. From the information gathered, the companies created a relationship-building foundation. That foundation, in turn, drove specific content, which got results. This is the basis of context marketing.

So, getting back to your own marketing efforts, if the goal of your content plan is to generate more leads, you need to build a relationship with your audience. If your intent is to position yourself as an expert or authority in your field, you need to build a relationship with your audience.

Want to drive traffic to your website?

Guess what?

You need to build a relationship with your audience.

Hand coming out of monitor screen, being shaken by another hand.
Gerd Altmann for Pixabay

Context marketing helps you build that relationship by:

  1. Offering a granular understanding of your audience’s needs and wants, through gathering and analyzing data.

  2. Helping you develop insights and intelligence, which become the foundation of your overall content marketing plan.

  3. Allowing you to create dynamite, high-quality content, based on that foundation, and to distribute it through formats and platforms with which your audience is familiar and comfortable.

  4. Providing you with ongoing data and frequent analysis about your content creation, messaging and delivery processes, leading to continuous improvement of your content marketing plan.

And . . . the Keys to Success

So how, specifically, do you build this relationship with your target market? Read on, for some answers.

Set Your Objective

You need to know the purpose of your plan, even before you write your first piece of content. An email newsletter will have a different endgame than a long-form blog on LinkedIn. The newsletter might have, as its goal, driving more content to your website. The blog, in the meantime, is a means to position you as a thought leader in your particular industry.

So, take a moment, right now, to determine what it is you want from your content plan. Website traction? More newsletter subscribers? Lead generation? Some of these answers will overlap, and that’s okay. Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to really get to know your audience, and to understand the context in which it operates, which means . . .

Data, and More Data

A one-size-fits-all content plan will probably work, in the same sense that a broken clock is right twice a day. You might hit a chord with your audience. But “might” isn’t enough, when it comes to successful content development.

This is where data gathering and analysis comes in. This allows you to walk a few steps (if not more) in your audience’s shoes, and to determine its needs, wants and -- yeah, okay -- the context in which it operates.

Let’s get back to the Taco Bell example. The company was able to measure the effectiveness of its Waze content campaign by tracking data through the GPS app. In doing so, Taco Bell gained an understanding of how many drivers responded to the pop-up ads to visit a nearby restaurant.

Specifically, according to Jordan Grossman, who was Waze’s head of U.S. sales at the time of the campaign, both companies learned that, on average, 3% of users who saw the ad clicked on it. Furthermore, that 3% expressed a purchase intent by hitting the “Drive There” button. Such information was helpful, as it outlined consumer behavior. For Taco Bell, understanding that behavior helped underline the success of its marketing efforts, allowing the rollout of additional campaigns.

Waze is only one way to collect much-needed data. Customer relationship management tools, such as Salesforce or Zendesk Sell, are also helpful, as they measure audience response and behavior, thus allowing companies to tweak marketing communications. Website analytics, through Google Analytics, Hubspot, or similar tools, are also helpful when it comes to understanding behavior of website visitors.

Basically, the more data you can obtain about your audience, the better you can understand their behaviors which, in turn, allows you to develop content that is relevant and useful.

And, once that content is developed . . .

Test Once, Then Twice, Then Again

Successful companies don't just throw new products or services on the market and hope for the best. That is, unless those companies follow the “if you build it, they will come” school of thought which, as I pointed out in a previous blog, doesn’t always work.

No, those companies subject new (and revamped) products and services to extensive testing before they are released. Companies spend a lot of money on data-gathering methods, such as focus groups, surveys and even limited product/service release, to determine audience reaction. They then take the information from all of that testing and decide whether to move forward with a product launch, or head back to the drawing board.

Content isn't all that different. It also requires testing, re-testing and optimization. You need to know what type of content works, and what will lead to audience response in reaching the goal you set for yourself.

If, for, example, your long-form blog about -- er -- murder hornets isn’t working (or isn’t tapping into an audience’s context (or interrelated condition), then review your data, come up with a new angle, and test again. If that new angle sparks a response from your audience, then that’s the strategy to stick with.

Until it isn’t.

Remember this?

The “right moment” can change, as can the right content. Let me put it this way. It's highly probable that I'm not going to talk about Asian giant hornets at all at this time next year, simply because it won't be "the right moment" any more. Unless those creatures have turned the major metros of the United States into wastelands. In which case, we would have other problems.

At any rate, context marketing requires ongoing testing and intelligence gathering. This will determine the right balance when it comes to content type and frequency.

With this in mind, it's also important that you . . .

Offer a Variety of Content

Sometimes, when I mention content marketing, the first response is: “Oh, yeah. Blogs.” If that “someone” is a prospective client, MY response is: “You are correct. Blogs are an important cornerstone of any successful content marketing plan. But, they aren’t the only form of content that can be used to help reach your goals.” There is more to content marketing than just written blogs.

As an example, I’m using three forms of content to explain context marketing. There is this beautifully written, long-form article. There is an infographic. And, there is another form of content, unique to The WordSorters, called the “Content Capsule” (see below).

You can find these Content Capsules on my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

And, likely as not, a link to this article could find its way to the next Content Compendium, The WordSorters’ semi-monthly newsletter/email. Shameless self-promotion warning ahead: If you would like to subscribe to the Content Compendium, email me at, and I’ll make sure you are on the list.

It’s important to test a variety of platforms and formats. Beyond word-based articles, or blogs, think infographics, videos, animations, pictures or . . . you get the idea.

This goes back to understanding your audience. For instance, a younger audience might not necessarily engage with an article; the preference here could be videos. An older demographic, however, might be more likely to gravitate toward blogs or infographics.

And finally . . .

Be Patient, and Don't Give Up

We live in a society that embraces instant gratification. Everything is needed now, this minute. However, “instant” isn’t useful for successful context marketing. The process is a marathon, rather than a sprint. It takes time to get to know your audience and to develop and distribute meaningful content. It takes time to truly understand what that audience will respond to.

Before I Buzz Off . . . Okay, sorry. I couldn’t resist.

Context marketing does take work, time and effort. However, when your data-collection activities provide you with information about the situations in which your audience operates, this helps drive your content efforts. This knowledge also helps ensure you know when your content is hitting the mark and if it isn’t, how you can improve it.

Specifically, conTEXT marketing gives you the results you need from your conTENT plan.

It could also take your mind off those murder hornets.

Or maybe not.

For assistance in developing content to help with your context marketing, log on to, email me at or call 214-536-5457. Interested in receiving fun content marketing tidbits, via email? Subscribe to The WordSorters’ Content Compendium, by emailing

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